Thanks everyone for your continuing input on this topic. It is greatly appreciated.
I've just returned from Cherry Hill, New Jersey and the East Coast Barista Jam hosted by Crescent Moon Coffee and Coffee Labs. It was a fun experience and I had the opportunity to lead the espresso-making section of the Jam along with MARBC Champion David George and Michele Granitz of Max Crema's.
Overall, the Jam was a good time with lots of great people in attendance - a number of which were very new beginners and others with varying levels of experience. One thing that the Jam re-framed in my mind was that beginning or without experience baristas really need serious time and attention to develop their basic skills.
Because of the group nature of the Jam, it's almost impossible to properly instruct the individual attendees and develop their skills. Six people around a machine for an hour or two is just not enough time. Because of this, I've come away thinking that PF2007 needs to focus on attendees who already have a strong grasp of the basic concepts and skills in our craft.
Also in attendance at the Jam were Chris Deferio and Chris Owens from Gimme! Coffee at a support station. Having these two experienced baristas only added to the presentation. For example, as I was lecturing/discussing certain aspects of the process both Deferio and White were able to add to the discussion and offer insight and perspective that I was not aware of or had simply forgotten to mention. There's a powerful energy having people of various knowledge come together and conduct an open discussion on a topic that enriches everyone.
This was very apparent (of course) in the after-hour discussions where everyone, like Stephen Vick and Philip Search were there to add to the discussion with their own areas of expertise. In short, it's incredible and inspiring.
For PF2007 we want to develop an event that can harness the positive aspects of both the traditional conference style lecture and the after-hours passionate discussion that encompasses everything from grinder philosophy to kicking the ass of shitty coffees.
It's not about whether someone is cool or uncool but rather about developing an event where everyone can contribute and benefit - without having the steep learning curve of learning how to grind, dose, distribute, level and pull a shot of espresso still in front of them.
Is this an event for the "cognoscenti"? Perhaps. But even the best baristas I've met and know personally always seem to be seeking out new knowledge and expanding their repertoire. This is the group of baristas we want to develop this event for.
Is this about "exclusion"? I would hope not. I would hope our group of coffee cognoscenti aren't the types who are lured by the snobbery and elitism that can raise it's head when trying to be above others. But while there's opportunity for newbies to receive exposure to the material in the form of regional BGA-sanctioned and independent barista jams, as well as SCAA Conference sessions, SCAA Espresso Labs and individual and group instruction from a host of schools, consultants and local coffee shops, there is not currently a venue for the "Third Wave" barista to indulge in continuing education.
The level of discussion and instruction we seek for PF2007 will be high. Beyond the "here's how to grind, dose, tamp and pull", we're talking about serious discussions about the topics we gravitate towards. Perhaps really getting into the science of milk, perhaps the nuances of grind and whisking with The Clover, or as Nick B. noted, the differences of grind and temperature on individual espressos.
Really, the scope of PF2007 is incredibly open at the moment and we're gearing the event towards this "higher" level of craft mastery.
Marshall - Mr. Fox may have been on to something other than bemoaning the lack of quality espresso shops in his area but PF2007 isn't closed off to anyone. It's wide open. However, it's not an event where someone comes to learn how to tamp but rather an event where the nuances of tamping can be discussed, dissected, examined and improved upon.
That said, please keep the ideas and suggestions coming!
new explorations in coffee + cuisine.